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3 Arrested After Salt Lake City Landlord Found Dead In Apartment Crawlspace

Manuel Velasquez told police he shot David Stokoe during a fight over an eviction.

By Eric Shorey

Three people have been arrested in connection with the death of a Salt Lake City landlord who was trying to evict two of them.

The body of David Stokoe, 40, was found in a semi-hidden crawlspace at a building where he'd been renting an apartment to two of the suspects, according to Salt Lake City Police spokesman Sergeant Greg Wilking. Manuel Velasquez, 31, Jessica Reese, 38, and Diana Hernandez, 30, were apprehended Saturday after a standoff with police.

Police believe Stokoe, a married father of four, was killed Thursday, the same day he was reported missing. Police ultimately discovered the body Friday.

Velasquez and Reese had longstanding issues with Stokoe, according to court documents cited by the Salt Lake Tribune. They claimed Stokoe had been “overstepping his legal rights by entering the apartment without [the renters’] permission.”

Stokoe had demanded Velasquez and Reese leave the apartment by 6 p.m. Friday, according to the documents. Velasquez said that Stokoe had kicked down the door of the apartment that day. Then, according to Reese, Stokoe physically attacked Velasquez. Velasquez told police that's when he reached into his fanny pack, grabbed a gun, and shot Stokoe.

Reese, Velasquez, and Hernandez allegedly worked together to hide the body.

Velasquez, who has been convicted on several felonies since 2008, has been jailed on suspicion of murder, obstruction of justice, possession of a firearm by a restricted person, and a felony-level discharge of a firearm offense. Reese and Hernandez were both arrested for obstruction of justice, according to Fox 13 Salt Lake City.

Diane Stokoe, the victim's mother, told the Salt Lake City Tribune that she believes the trio had been taking advantage of her son and disputed the notion that he would have instigated a fight.

A vigil for Stokoe was held on Monday. A GoFundMe page has been established to help support the Stokoe family

“Our hearts are broken over the loss of Dave,” the family said in a statement. “This situation is tragic beyond words, but we are remembering Dave the he way he deserves to be remembered, as a hero and champion ... We are so grateful for the overwhelming love and support we’ve received through prayers, service, emails, posts, and texts. We feel your prayers and appreciate the outpouring of love and charity from friends, neighbors and strangers."

Neil Stokoe, the victim's brother, described his brother in an interview with ABC affiliate station KTVX-TV in Salt Lake City.

"I idolized Dave, everything he did," said Neil Stokoe, adding that he and his brother are among six children in their family. "He was a very charismatic individual and just loved people. Dave was a warrior. Dave was a leader."

[Photo: Jessica Miller (left), Manuel Velasquez (middle), Diana Hernandez (right) via Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office]

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